Voltaire on Tolerance Re: Chomsky takes down Hitchens

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Sat Oct 6 07:04:14 PDT 2001

>Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
> > In the main I concur with Justin, but I reiterate my point that it is
>> inadvisable to proclaim values such as "Freedom, Equality, Property,
>> and Bentham" & "religious toleration" are "Western." That is exactly
>> how Osama bin Laden & Co. think & tell their followers. Why should
>> we agree with them that such values are alien to nations outside the
> > G8 circle?
>Perhaps someone else can provide the historical data in more detail than
>I can, but I have the general impression that religious toleration is
>fundamentally a _NON-western_ value, practiced first I think by Islam,
>and only adopted, and quite grudgingly, by the west after it had almost
>destroyed itself in the religous wars of the 16th and 17th centuries?
>When was it, by the way, that non-Anglicans were first allowed to enter
>According to Christopher Hill, the last execution of a Unitarian in
>England was as late as 1699.

That's what Voltaire said on tolerance:

***** ...Madmen, who have never been able to give worship to the God who made you! Miscreants, whom the example of the Noachides, the learned Chinese, the Parsees and all the sages, has never been able to lead! Monsters, who need superstitions as crows' gizzards need carrion! You have been told it already, and there is nothing else to tell you -- if you have two religions in your countries, they will cut each other's throat; if you have thirty religions, they will dwell in peace. Look at the great Turk, he governs Guebres, Banians, Creek Christians, Nestorians, Romans. The first who tried to stir up tumult would be impaled; and everyone is tranquil.

Of all religions, the Christian is without doubt the one which should inspire tolerance most, although up to now the Christians have been the most intolerant of all men. The Christian Church was divided in its cradle, and was divided even in the persecutions which under the first emperors it sometimes endured. Often the martyr was regarded as an apostate by his brethren, and the Carpocratian Christian expired beneath the sword of the Roman executioners, excommunicated by the Ebionite Christian, the which Ebionite was anathema to the Sabellian....

<http://history.hanover.edu/texts/voltaire/voltoler.htm> *****


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